Get to know the graduate students in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies for the 2023-24 academic year!

Faizat Oladunni AsifatFaizat Oladunni Asifat

I’m a first-year graduate student from Osun State, Nigeria, and I hold a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts (media arts) from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. My academic interests include issues of identity, hybridity, gender, popular culture, post-colonialism, accents perception and depiction, and how these topics are portrayed in various forms of media.

Why CRS?

I chose the CRS program at Syracuse University because of its outstanding reputation and its robust interdisciplinary approach. It provides an excellent opportunity to explore a wide range of subjects. I was drawn to the diverse and experienced faculty who can provide valuable guidance in my academic and research endeavors.


I enjoy listening to music, watching TV shows, and spending time with my friends and family.

Aevyn Kade BarnettAevyn Kade Barnett

Born and raised in Central New Jersey, I received a bachelor’s in English with a double minor in gender studies and Judaic studies from Muhlenberg College (Allentown, Pennsylvania).

Academic and Research Interests

My research centers around identification theory, emotion theory, and affect theory in queer portrait photography. I am also immensely passionate about pedagogy and aspire to be a professor after I earn my Ph.D.

Why CRS?

I chose CRS because of the strong sense of community and support—both in and outside of the classroom.

Fun Fact

I have the first 100 digits of pi memorized!

Ash CavalcantiAsh Cavalcanti

A first-generation Brazilian immigrant born in Maryland, I graduated from Towson University with a bachelor of arts in communications studies.

Academic Interests

I am interested in analyzing the rhetoric of game systems and how they can expand or constrict the ways we perceive and tackle concepts in our society. The aim is to interrogate the underlying assumptions in our systems and daily practice and filter it through an intersectional lens.

Why Syracuse

The diversity in disciplines and perspective really drew me to Syracuse. Academic discussion is always improved by open multidisciplinary discussion, as it promotes new ways of thinking and collaboration to solve complex problems.

Andrea Tapia CeraAndrea Tapia Cera

I am a first-year grad student at CRS from Mexico City/Syracuse, New York. I majored in English and adolescent education with a minor in modern languages from St. John Fisher University. My research interests include modern literature, feminist, and decolonial studies.

Why CRS?

I was interested in rhetorical and cultural studies in my undergrad experience, and I wanted to continue my education by broadening my studies on rhetoric.

Fun Fact

I have a whippet named Kiwi; I bring her everywhere I go when I can.

Asajahnique CollinsAsajahnique Collins

I am a second-year graduate student from the Bronx, New York. I graduated from Syracuse University majoring in communication and rhetorical studies with a minor in dance. My academic interests include respectability politics, Black feminism, intersectionality, nonverbal communication, and pop culture influences.

Why CRS?

I chose CRS because I wanted to further my studies that I set as a foundation in my undergraduate studies in CRS. I wanted the space to not only discover my interest, but also dive deeper into my interests with the support of the faculty and staff that have supported me throughout my undergraduate career.


I enjoy doing my makeup and writing screenplays.

D DurkD Durk

Hi, my name is D, and I am a second-year M.A. student at Syracuse currently studying critical and rhetorical theory studies. I’m from Lake Norman, North Carolina. I graduated from Appalachian State University in 2022 with a double major in communications and public relations with a minor in political science.

Why CRS?

I chose the CRS program at Syracuse specifically to focus on diversifying the type of rhetoric I study and application of it. Syracuse has a unique program that I have truly loved exploring. My person study interests are media, popular culture, animation, and performance studies. Outside of studying, I enjoy pottery and baking and am a cinephile 🙂

Hobbies/Fun Fact

A fun fact about me is I love to collect Smiski figurines.

Mary HanrahanMary Hanrahan

I am a first-year graduate student born in Boston, Massachusetts. I received a B.A. in writing and rhetoric and Russian area studies from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. My academic interests mostly pertain to space and place, surveillance, digital media, mediated representation, and moral panics. I hope to extend a few of these interests toward research regarding the role of fear in contemporary U.S. society.

Why CRS?

I chose CRS at Syracuse because it not only offered me the opportunity to learn from some of the most accomplished professionals in this field, but also the perfect environment for true engagement with them. The size and scope of the program as M.A.-specific appealed to me because it offered an intimate yet challenging space for me to receive detailed feedback, engage actively with my colleagues, and explore my individual needs as a student.

Hobbies/Fun Facts

I love to rock climb, and I have two beautiful cats who are my best friends.

Emily IknayanEmily Iknayan

I am a second-year graduate student from Charlotte, North Carolina. Graduating from Queens University of Charlotte, I had a double major in history and professional writing and rhetoric with a minor in philosophy. Some of my academic interests include the prison-industrial complex, prison abolition, Marxism, feminism, postcolonial theory, and labor issues.

Why CRS?

I chose CRS because of the department’s emphasis on interdisciplinary work. I also appreciated the opportunity to have a teaching assistantship while pursuing my graduate studies.


Watching movies, crocheting, cooking, baking, biking, and being outside.

Janae KeaJanae Kea

I am a second-year graduate student from Queens, New York. I graduated with a bachelor of science in communication arts from St. John’s University. My academic interest includes exploring the intersections of race, sex, and gender and in American pop culture. Currently, my scope of focus is within social media discourse in popular television and film concerning notions of vulnerable beings, resistance, innocence, and identity construction.

Why CRS?

I chose CRS because of my passion for deep diving in research and having the opportunity to further explore my interests in interdisciplinary work.


Photography and puzzles

Saif KhanSaif Khan

I am a second-year graduate student born in Pakistan and raised in the Bay Area. I attended Chapman University in Orange, California, where I received a B.A. in English with a minor in philosophy. My current research is situated around reaction videos as digital rhetorics, focusing on the significance of simulation, labor, and parasociality in constructing rhetorical ecologies.

Why CRS?

I was drawn to CRS due to the program’s encouragement of interdisciplinary scholarship, the emphasis on cultivating a supportive and collaborative network of colleagues, and its high regard among doctoral programs across the nation.

Connor KnowlanConnor Knowlan

I am a first-year graduate student from Pennsylvania. I earned my undergraduate degree at Penn State Berks, majoring in communication arts & sciences. My research interests are in pop culture and media, focusing on comic books.

Why CRS?

I chose CRS because I wanted to broaden my experiences and get a deeper understanding of rhetoric as a whole and how it intersects with my own personal research interests. This program not only does that but encourages it.

Hobbies/Fun Fact

I am a fourth-degree black belt in goshin ryu ju jitsu and an Eagle Scout.

Caecilie Paarup MadsenCaecilie Paarup Madsen

I am a first-year graduate student born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark. I have a B.A. in rhetoric from the University of Copenhagen and also studied at the University of Edinburgh for a semester. I love traveling and have always wanted to study in the U.S., so when CRS offered me a spot in their programme, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

At the moment, I am particularly interested in feminist theory, bodily rhetoric, and the politics of desire and sexual entitlement. When I’m not buried in books, you can usually find me hanging upside down in a pole dance studio or working my way through yet another story-driven video game.

Why CRS?

I picked CRS because of its interdisciplinary approach to rhetorical studies. We are encouraged to explore and engage with scholarship outside of our field and the department’s four walls which was really important to me.

Jerome Christopher PearsonJerome Christopher Pearson

I am a first-year graduate student from Kansas City, Missouri. For my undergraduate degree, I attended Syracuse University, where I received a B.S. in communication and rhetorical studies. My academic interests revolve around the idea of how aspects of identity such as race, culture, and masculinity are represented and communicated through fashion and popular culture.

Why CRS?

The professors of the CRS department have always been supportive and genuinely interested in the work and collaboration with their students. I also looked forward to gaining insight and knowledge from Syracuse professors’ expertise in the subfields of CRS.

Hobbies/Fun Facts

In my free time I enjoy sewing, trying new food spots, and working out.

Hannah SparksHannah Sparks

I am a second-year graduate student from York, a small coastal town in southern Maine. Graduating from Clemson University, I received a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in philosophy. My academic interests surround the idea of contested spaces and the concept of community within these spaces. I am also interested in the study of community by means of narrative and storytelling.

Why CRS?

I chose CRS at Syracuse because of its investigative, interdisciplinary nature and its openness to personal and professional discovery. I believe this program will not only allow me to develop as a scholar, but it will prepare me to go out into this world with purpose and passion.

Hobbies/Fun Facts

I like being outside, and I’ve enjoyed exploring some of the natural spaces around Syracuse. I also enjoy spending time with friends and family.

I have the first 100 digits of pi memorized. I also have a black belt in taekwondo.

Xinyue TaoXinyue Tao

I am a second-year graduate student from Nanjing, China. For my undergraduate degree, I was in a dual degree program at Jiangsu University and Northern Arizona University. At Jiangsu University I majored in English and at Northern Arizona University I majored in English with an emphasis in literature and rhetoric & digital media. My academic interests include public memory, space, rhetoric, and museum studies.

Why CRS?

As one of the most forward-thinking and dynamic communities in Syracuse, I believe the educational possibilities in the CRS program are endless. The graduate teaching assistantship also provides me the opportunity to gain a unique teaching experience.


Reading and playing the Chinese musical instrument, the Guqin.

Maria TsangarakisMaria Tsangarakis

I am a second-year graduate student from Newburgh, New York. I graduated with a B.A. in communication and social influence, and a B.A. in advertising with a minor in psychology from Temple University in Philadelphia. My academic interests explore the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality across media platforms.

Why CRS?

I chose CRS because I love dissecting language to uncover its intent and how it has influenced a specific audience to take action.


Tsangarakis, M. I. “New Girl or New Age: Black masculinity, television, and the portrayal of Black male sitcom characters.”  Rhetoric Society of America. May, 2024. Under review.

Tsangarakis, M. I. “Maybe Normal People aren’t so normal: Navigating a post-MeToo media landscape in the age of popular feminism.” Rhetoric Society of America. May, 2024. Under review.

Tsangarakis, M. I. “The ‘burden of proving’ womanhood: Dylan Mulvaney, narration, and the (mis)identification of bodies.” National Communication Association. November, 2023.

Tsangarakis, M I. and Caliendo, G. “The Trap of Inclusion-Exclusion: Viola Davis, the #MeToo Movement, and the Mechanics of Resilient Feminist Narratives.” Pittsburgh Cultural Studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Student Symposium. February, 2022. Paper Presentation. Remote.

Tsangarakis, M I. and Caliendo, G. “The Trap of Inclusion-Exclusion: Viola Davis, the #MeToo Movement, and the Mechanics of Resilient Feminist Narratives.” Temple University Undergraduate Symposium. April 14-15, 2021. Poster Presentation. Remote.

Tsangarakis, M I. and Caliendo, G. “The Trap of Inclusion-Exclusion: Viola Davis, the #MeToo Movement, and the Mechanics of Resilient Feminist Narratives.” Eastern Communication Association. March 26, 2021. Paper Presentation. Remote. (Received top paper award (one of three from 150 submissions)

Tsangarakis, M I. and Caliendo, G. “Silent No More!: Viola Davis, the #MeToo Movement, and the Rhetorical Negotiation of Empowerment.” New York State Communication Association. October 16, 2020. Poster Presentation. Remote.


I am a very avid reader outside of academia and have read over 200 books!